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 Header Item Health (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Continued)
 Header Item Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Health (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1004 No. 6
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett] The legislation was in place beforehand and a plan was prepared before Covid ever broke out, as the WHO had requested of states. The Irish Government had committed to preparing such a plan but never followed through.

The first NPHET briefing on Covid took place in late February 2020 and was attended by one representative of one Dáil office in the Houses of the Oireachtas - my office. Our staff member asked whether drills had been done, as the WHO had required. There was no answer to that question. The staff member was told an email would be sent to let us know. The drills had not been done. There was no preparation for this even though the WHO had been telling states they needed to prepare. That is the reality of what is going on.

I asked the public health doctor in Australia what the difference would be between his public health team in Australia and the public health situation he would have faced if he were working in Dún Laoghaire. He said that he has 16 staff under him, all of whom are directly employed public health professionals. Of course, he has consultant status. He said he can ring up the equivalent of Tony Holohan or NPHET, describe the situation and tell them what he needs. That does not happen here. He said that public health doctors in Ireland cannot make direct contact in that way. I asked how many staff he would have if he were employed here. He said he would not have any staff. He has 16 staff over there and he can go to the local hospital if he needs more. He can tell the police and the local authority what to do because, as it is a public health emergency, the public health professionals decide how it is responded to. The resources are made available and the legislation is already in place. That is how one deals with a pandemic. What we have is a disaster in comparison and the consequences of that have been dire. That is the truth of it. I would be interested to hear the Minister's response on that issue.

The amendments I and my colleagues have tabled seek to make mandatory quarantine a reality and to remove the potential for profiteering from the establishment of the facilities necessary if we are to actually have a proper mandatory quarantine regime. Our amendments on that front have been ruled out of order but I wish to point out that they are not out of order because they are directly connected to the public health effort. In Australia, any profit motivation has been removed from the public health and quarantine system established there because the authorities there found that where profit came into play, it was undermining the public health effort because staff were moving from one place to another, there were staff shortages and corners were being cut and so on. Our amendments seek to ensure that people will be employed directly by the health agencies and the public bodies necessary for the effort and that they will all be under the authority of public health. That is what is necessary in order to deal with this pandemic. Sadly, I do not think the Government will do that. This legislation is certainly not even a serious effort to do. Nonetheless, we will continue our campaign for a proper response to the Covid pandemic.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I remind Deputies that we are on section 2 of the Bill and we are dealing with a grouping of several amendments. There are ten speakers offering as things stand, so I appeal to Members to be conscious of time.

Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú: Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú I will not take very long on this issue. Members are aware of the distress that people are experiencing. It has been recognised many times in the House, particularly today. Members are aware that people are worried and disgruntled and wish to see a plan and a way through this. They do not believe a sufficient amount is being done with regard to the particular issue of hotel quarantining.

Sinn Féin welcomes the fact that the Government has got to the point of discussing quarantining people coming in from 20 countries. All present know the current difficulties. We know of the Californian, Brazilian and South African strains, but we do not know from where the next strain will come or where the real difficulty may be. What we need to do is to ensure the ultimate protection we can give our people is in place and that means quarantining across the board in respect of flights into Ireland. I accept that those who are involved in freight and supply chains are an absolutely necessary part of the workforce to ensure we maintain an element of connectivity. We cannot do absolutely everything we need to do, but we can do a hell of a lot more and we need to ensure it is done as soon as possible.

Many Deputies have recently expressed concerns in the House regarding problems that are obviously very distressing, particularly for some older citizens, such as people showing up to be vaccinated but the vaccines not being available. We need those problems to be dealt with as quickly as possible.

An issue that frightens me is that it is expected that 100,000 vaccines will be delivered this week, while in April, May and June there could be at least 250,000 vaccines a week. We need to ensure that we have the infrastructure and capacity to deliver that. We need not only to deal with these individual issues but also to ensure that the system is absolutely streamlined.

Deputy Cullinane addressed the issue of the Sinn Féin amendment that has been ruled out of order but I am not particularly worried about the amendment. What I am worried about is delivery with regard to the sharing of information North and South on people travelling into this country from the point of view of ensuring that we do what we can in the context of mandatory quarantine. We cannot do everything, but we can do a lot more. It is as simple as that. We need to fireproof people from the vaccine as much as possible. That is the whole idea of hotel quarantining.

We need to be ahead of the game rather than waiting until we identify five, six, seven, eight, nine or ten cases of a new strain which may be worse than any of the strains we have seen before. We need to protect people and the vaccination programme and we need to deal with the issues. Sinn Féin calls on the Government to change its tack with regard to supporting these amendments or dealing with the reality that we need hotel quarantine for travellers into Ireland from every other country. We need an all-Ireland response and, if that cannot be delivered, we need a two-island response. It is as simple as that.

  Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 37 and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh - Ireland’s progress in implementing the sustainable development goals across Departments; (2) Deputy Chris Andrews - continued Covid restrictions on outdoor sports such as golf and athletics; (3) Deputy Willie O'Dea - proposals to increase the wage subsidy scheme rate in line with increases in the minimum wage over the past decade; (4) Deputy Alan Farrell - the need for greater supports for the Irish aviation industry; (5) Deputy Jennifer Whitmore - ministerial consent for the construction of the Arklow waste-water treatment plant; (6) Deputies Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Gary Gannon - accreditation for the national training programme for special needs assistants; (7) Deputies Fergus O'Dowd and Kieran O'Donnell - the need for vaccination centres in Drogheda and Limerick; (8) Deputy James Lawless - the availability and roll-out schedule for broadband in rural County Kildare; (9) Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan - what plans are in place to make rapid antigen testing available in non-clinical settings to support the reopening of the economy; (10) Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor - plans to streamline the process to refund medical card patients for incorrect phlebotomy charges; (11) Deputy Brian Stanley - improved access for children to psychological assessments, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy in counties Laois and Offaly; (12) Deputy Verona Murphy - the reason for the variation in HSE allowances for wigs and hairpieces depending on where a person lives in Ireland; (13) Deputy Patrick Costello - the plight of Filipino front-line nurses unable to get passports renewed at the Irish Embassy in London due to Covid-19 closures; (14) Deputy Pat Buckley - flooding in the east Cork area; (15) Deputy Michael McNamara - the disabled driver and passenger scheme; (16) Deputy Ciarán Cannon - establishing a training programme for gardaí to protect vulnerable road users and an online portal to submit video evidence of potential road traffic violations; (17) Deputy Catherine Connolly - chun an fhadhb leanúnach le soláthar uisce i dTír an Fhia, Ceantar na nOileán, áit ina bhfuil muintir na háite ag brath ar sholáthar tancaer fíoruisce, a phlé; (18) Deputy Thomas Gould - the continued closure of Southdoc Blackpool; (19) Deputy Sean Sherlock - flooding in Fermoy, County Cork on Wednesday, 24 February and humanitarian flood relief support; (20) Deputy Matt Carthy - current funding plans for the opening of the group home in Carrickmacross for people with physical and sensory disabilities; (21) Deputy Paul McAuliffe - the issue of crime in Dublin in the context of another shooting in Dublin last night; and (22) Deputies Mattie McGrath, Carol Nolan, Michael Collins, Richard O'Donoghue, Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Healy-Rae - the need to open places of worship to limited numbers of people, especially for Easter.

The matters raised by Deputies Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Jennifer Whitmore, Pádraig O'Sullivan and Brian Stanley have been selected for discussion.

Health (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages

SECTION 2

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

In page 5, to delete line 2 and substitute the following:
“ ‘designated state’—

(a) on the coming into operation of this Act, means any country, territory, region or other place outside the State other than Northern Ireland,

(b) if at any time after passing a resolution under section 9(5) of the Health (Amendment) Act 2021 both Houses of the Oireachtas so resolve, has the meaning assigned to it by section 38E(1);”.

-(Deputy Alan Kelly).

Deputy Duncan Smith: Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith Deputy Alan Kelly spoke at length in opening this debate, so I will not speak for too long. There are a couple of elements I wish to add. An issue I raised on Second Stage relates to seasonal workers. I would like to hear a response from the Minister on this issue. What is the plan for seasonal workers? Last year, they were deemed essential workers. It was the subject of significant debate in terms of their treatment. There is a wider debate and wider issue in terms of their low pay, treatment, exploitation as a group of workers. That remains, unfortunately. However, from a public health point of view, will seasonal workers coming in to work in the agricultural industry in particular be subject to mandatory hotel quarantining? They should be and I and my colleagues hope that they will be, but we need clarification in that regard. Beyond that, another crucial point is whether engagement has taken place with the agricultural industry and the employers regarding the conditions under which these workers will work and, indeed, live.


Last Updated: 26/03/2021 11:51:38 First Page Previous Page Page of 74 Next Page Last Page